Reliance Jio emerged as the top spectrum buyer in the 5G auctions, which concluded on Monday after dragging for seven days. Spending Rs 88,078 crore, Jio acquired 24,740 MHz spectrum across bands. The telco’s total spectrum holding is now higher than rivals Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea.
The government mopped up a little over Rs 1.50 trillion in the auctions. Of the total 72 GHz spectrum put up for auction, 51 GHz was sold, which means 29% remained unsold. This is far better compared with the past two auctions when more than 60% spectrum remained unsold. This shows that the overall reduction of reserve price by about 39% by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) yielded positive results.
Barring the 1800 MHz band, for which Jio and Bharti engaged in fierce bidding and which dragged the auction for seven days, spectrum in all bands were sold at the reserve price.
Telecom minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said the government will complete the allocation process of the spectrum to the operators by August 10. He added that the operators should be able to place orders for equipment by September-October, by when 5G services can be launched. The minister further said there would be significant 5G coverage across the country in the next two-three years.
Jio, apart from acquiring spectrum in the 5G bands of 3,300 MHz and millimetre band of 26 GHz, was the only operator to have acquired airwaves in the premium 700 MHz — the most expensive going by the reserve price.
This is the first time that 700 MHz spectrum was acquired by an operator as in the two previous auctions, it remained unsold because of high reserve price.
Bharti Airtel was next to Jio with a total spend of Rs 43,084 crore, followed by Vodafone Idea which spent Rs 18,799 crore. Adani Data Networks, the Adani Group firm which was a surprise new entrant in the auctions, bought 400 MHz in 26 GHz, spending the least – Rs 212 crore. This was on expected lines as the company had stated that it was acquiring spectrum only for private network and not for consumer mobility and even its earnest money deposit was the least at Rs 100 crore.
The total quantum of spectrum across bands acquired by Bharti was 19,867 MHz, while Vodafone Idea bought a total of 6,228 MHz.
Since operators have the option of paying the entire amount committed over a 20-year period spread into equal instalments, Vaishnaw said that the total amount the government will get as first year’s instalment will be Rs 13,365 crore. The amount can go up if the operators choose to pay a higher amount upfront.
The highest spending by the operators was for acquiring the mid-band 5G spectrum in 3,300 MHz, where the total outflow is Rs 80,590 crore. This is followed by 700 MHz (where Jio is the only buyer) with an outflow of Rs 39,270 crore. The millimetre band of 26 GHz, also a 5G spectrum, came next with a spend of Rs 14,709 crore.
The 4G bands of 1,800 MHz, 800 MHz, 2,100 MHz, 2,500 MHz, and 900 MHz saw outflows of Rs 10,376 crore, Rs 1,050 crore, Rs 3,180 crore, Rs 650 crore, and Rs 349 crore, respectively.
“Jio is fully ready for 5G rollout in the shortest period of time because of its nationwide fibre presence, all-IP network with no legacy infrastructure, indigenous 5G stack and strong global partnerships across the technology ecosystem,” the company said in a statement.
“We will celebrate ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ with a pan-India 5G rollout. Jio is committed to offering world-class, affordable 5G and 5G-enabled services,” Akash Ambani, chairman of Jio, said.
Gopal Vittal, MD & CEO, Bharti Airtel (India and South Asia), said: “We are confident that we will be able to deliver the best 5G experience in India in terms of coverage, speeds and latency. This will allow us to change a lot of established paradigms for both our B2C and B2B customers. 5G technology is the revolution that can alter India’s manufacturing, services and several other sectors.”
On its part, Vodafone Idea said, “We have the advantage of leveraging the global experience of Vodafone Group which has proven expertise in deploying 5G in many markets. We will continue to invest in our future ready network to upgrade it for roll out of 5G services to our customers in future.”